The advent of the commercial riding lawn mower more than 30 years ago has lent itself to a platform for doing more than just mowing lawns. Manufacturer efforts to increase the productivity of their machines has resulted in your ability to fit your zero-turn radius mower with implements and attachments to work year round in multiple settings.
But before you can make use of these tools to maximize productivity, you've got to know what's out there. The first step is to take a close look at each season and get to know what implements and attachments are available.
Snow Blowers. The most popular of the winter attachments are the snow blowers. Two types of snow blowers are typically offered: single-stage and two-stage. Single-stage blowers rely on a shaft-driven auger to rapidly move snow into the blower and through the discharge chute. Sizes of the single-stage blower typically range in widths between 36 and 42 inches and can usually throw snow up to 20 feet.
|Implement||Better on Front-cut or mid-mount?||Notes|
|Snowblower||Front-Cut||Restricted PTO capability and traction on mid-mount.|
|Dozer Blade||Front-Cut||Overall length and traction for steering makes mid-mount harder to use.|
|Rotary Broom||Front-Cut||Restricted PTO capability on mid-mount.|
|Debris Blower||Front-Cut||Restricted PTO capability on mid-mount. Note: Blower buggy attachment allows you to use a walk-behind blower on the front of mid-mount.|
|Aerator||Tie||If overall length is a consideration (tight areas), the front-cut wins this one based on not lengthening the overall dimension when installing an aerator.|
|Dethatcher||Tie||Adds to overall length on both types of tractors, but the winner will be the mower that has a compact grass-handling system following behind the dethatcher to complete the job in one pass.|
|Loader Bucket||Front-Cut||Balance and size are major considerations (only offered by front-cut OEM).|
|Bed Shaper||Front-Cut||Only offered by front-cut OEM.|
|Push Broom||Tie||Useful on the front of both platforms.|
|Parking Lot Sweeper||Front-Cut||Only offered by front-cut OEM.|
|Sprayer||Tie||Useful on both platforms.|
|Spreader||Tie||Useful on both platforms.|
|Edger||Front-Cut||Only offered by front-cut OEM.|
|Leaf Blade Plow||Tie||Useful on the front of both platforms.|
Two-stage snow blowers use a slower moving auger to feed snow into a rapidly moving blower at the back of the unit housing that ejects the snow through the discharge chute. Sizes of two-stage blowers can range from 40 to 60 inches and can throw snow up to 40 feet.
Dozer Blades. Another popular winter attachment is the dozer blade. Blade sizes range from 40 inches up to 60 inches and come in two different configurations: straight blades and v-blades. Straight blades usually offer a multi-directional head that can push snow at five different angles depending on the desired direction for piling the snow. V-blades are a popular option for standard-sized sidewalks, because their shape evenly divides the snow to the edges of the sidewalk.
Brooms and Blowers. For lighter winter work, rotary and push brooms, and debris blowers are available. The performance of these implements depends greatly on the consistency of the snow. If the snow is too wet, these implements may not be useful. However, for a powdery-type snow, they can deliver an effective removal option. Rotary and push brooms typically use a poly brush that is safe for hard surface snow removal. Rotary brooms range in size from 47 to 60 inches. Push brooms are available from 42 to 60 inches.
Debris blowers are offered in two different styles: paddle wheel blowers and turbine blowers. Paddle-wheel blowers are smaller than turbine-style blowers and typically deliver 125 to 150 mph of airflow. Turbine-style blowers can move debris at speeds exceeding 150 mph; however, if you are using a debris blower for light snow removal, it is recommended that you carefully use it at a lower RPM to prevent a “blow back” effect of material. For mid-mount operation, blower buggies (a set of arms on caster wheels to carry a walk behind blower) are also offered.
The annual transition of dormant to healthy turf is also assisted by a few different attachments: aerators, spring tine dethatchers and rotary brooms.
Aerators. Four different types of aerators are offered from various manufacturers. The AERA-vator, made popular by The Grasshopper Co., Moundridge, Kan., uses timed, vibrating tines to “fracture” the soil and relieve compaction without leaving a core. The AERA-vator is offered in 40- and 60-inch sizes. The 38-inch wide Hooker aerator, from JRCO, Minneapolis, does not pull a core plug either; instead, it punctures, hooks and lifts the soil creating a soft plug. The Millcreek aerator, New Holland, Penn., is comprised of multiple tine roller wheels that rely on weight to puncture and pull cores as they roll. The Millcreek is available in widths from 42 to 84 inches. The 41.5-inch Perfaerator by Walker Mfg. Co., Fort Collins, Colo., is a core aerator attachment that uses a PTO-driven camshaft to drive tines into the ground without using added weight.
Spring Tine Dethatchers. The springing action of the tines helps this simple, yet useful attachment lift dried material, such as dead grass, twigs and matted leaves from the grass and bring it to the surface for easy collection. Dethatchers range in size from 40 to 60 inches. You should use an efficient mower collection system in conjunction with a dethatcher to finish the job in one pass.
Rotary Brooms. Not just used for winter work, the rotary broom is useful during spring cleanups and, although not as popular, debris removal from turf. You can use the broom at a low speed to remove dirt, sand or gravel that has accumulated in certain lawn areas. Popular areas for springtime work with this implement include lawn surfaces close to roads and baseball fields where infield dirt meets outfield turf.
Although the most popular use of a commercial mower in the summer is mowing, implements and attachments are available to keep your tractor busy even when you're not mowing. Turf care, light landscape renovation and hard-surface cleaning are additional jobs that you can tackle with a versatile mower.
Landscape Renovation. If you really want to multi-task with your mower, you can use loader buckets, dozer blades and bed shapers to offer additional services to your customers.
- Loader Bucket
Offered by Walker, the loader bucket is a versatile tool for pushing, scooping, hauling and grading. The 2.25-cubic-foot bucket has a tilting action and will lift 180 pounds to a clearance of 14 inches.
- Dozer Blades
Much like snow work, you can perform landscape work, such as grading, with dozer blades.
- Bed Shaper
Used for cutting turf edges (i.e., making landscaping beds and tree rings), the Bed Shaper by Pro Industries, Ephrata, Penn., makes quick work of these tedious jobs. Available for the Grasshopper and Walker mowers, the Bed Shaper uses a 16.25-inch blade to cut a clean edge.
Hard Surface Cleaning. When it comes to cleaning up after a landscape job or maintaining concrete, brick or paved areas, multiple attachments are available such as sweepers, rotary and push brooms and debris blowers.
Used in conjunction with the Walker Mower Grass Handling System, the sweeper attachment uses a main brush and curb brush (driven by the right hand drive wheel) to collect large material in a front-mounted hopper. The finer-debris is moved through the grass collection blower into a vacuum-style bag mounted in the grass catcher. The sweeper cleans and removes debris from any hard surface.
- Brooms and Blowers
Comparable to snow removal, rotary and push brooms and debris blowers are also useful for hard surface cleaning.
Turf Care. Full-service maintenance companies are finding that sprayer, spreader, and edger attachments are giving them the ability to offer a wider line of services.
Front-mount and rear-mount electric sprayers offer an alternative for companies that are not in the full-time chemical application business. Some sprayers clip on a deck in minutes without tools, allowing you to efficiently complete multiple jobs in one stop. Boom sprayer widths range from 52 to 132 inches, and tank sizes are typically between 25 and 50 gallons. Many sprayers are equipped with an extension hose and spray wand with an adjustable tip that allows you to move away from the tractor and also do small tree spraying.
Much like the sprayers, fertilizer spreaders are easily mounted and provide a more productive, easier-to-use alternative to walk-behind spreaders. Most spreaders are electrically controlled and can hold 2 to 3 cubic feet of fertilizer.
A self-tracking, coulter (rolling) disc edger is offered as an attachment by Walker. For smoothly and quickly trimming grass along concrete edges, the simple mechanical design uses down pressure to cut a clean edge while driving 3 to 4 mph.
For annual autumn leaf control and soil preparation jobs, debris blowers, a leaf blade plow and aerators are all useful tools.
Debris Blowers. Used in autumn for blowing leaves out of landscape beds and off of hard surface areas, debris blowers are real time savers vs. hand rakes and hand-held blowers.
Leaf Blade Plow. A front-mounted leaf blade plow is offered by JRCO as an attachment for intermediate walk behinds and riding mowers alike. The 55-inch-wide plow quickly moves piles of leaves over all types of surfaces.
Aerators. Many areas prefer autumn aeration, and all of the aerators explained earlier work both in spring and autumn conditions.
DOES TRACTOR STYLE MATTER?
While attachments are available for intermediate walk-behinds and mid-mount (or belly-mount) mowers alike, the front-cut design, with its PTO capability, allows you to use a wider variety of implements and attachments without affecting the overall size or performance of the tractor.
“One key factor with the front-cut design is when you remove a mower deck and attach an implement, you still have the same zero-turn maneuverability and tractor size,” explains Ruthanne Stucky, Grasshopper's marketing director.
Balance is also a key when it comes to using an implement. “When you attach an implement to the front of a mid-mount,” explains Bob Tomasek, Walker's customer service manager, “you tend to instantly throw the machine out of balance and you may also lose traction. Especially in winter work, balance and traction can make the difference between being a useful or ineffective machine.”
Stucky also notes for full-service operators, versatility of changing implements on a front-cut mower just makes good sense. “You can buy a mid-mount, a dedicated aerator and four backpack blowers,” she explains, “or you can have one front-mount with an aerator and blower and have only one engine to deal with. You've just eliminated five engines and four employees.” See Table 1, page C12, for which tractor configuration best fits each application.
DOES IT MAKE SENSE FOR ME?
Regardless of what time of year you use an implement, you have to make sure it makes sense. When considering purchasing an implement for your business, you should first look at three areas: application, equipment and finance.
Application. Make sure the implement fits the application. (Is it too large or small for the propsective job?)
Will this be useful for a long time, or are you buying it for just one job? You should define your needs prior to investing in implements. From an application standpoint, are you better off actually buying a dedicated tractor to do a task, or does a quick-change implement on your one tractor do the trick?
If this is an after-market implement, does the manufacturer recommend this implement?
Is ground engagement an issue with the tractor's hydrostatic transmissions?
Does this implement require an additional hitch?
How easy is it to remove and install on the tractor?
Will the dealer allow me to demonstrate the equipment?
Will this implement pay for itself?
Is offering additional services profitable for my business, or are we doing more work to make less money?
Regardless of which implement or tractor style you choose, the best advice is to make a decision that benefits your situation best. A little research and common sense can make an implement purchase a profitable investment for years to come.
Tim Cromley is marketing manager for Walker Mfg. Co. (Fort Collins, Colo.).
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